Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art - usually just called ICA Boston - is more than just another art museum.

Visit ICA Boston, and you'll discover a breath-taking space on the South Boston Waterfront filled with performances, films and videos, presentations, and galleries filled with contemporary artists' explorations of the physical and unseen world.

Although ICA gained a lot of international acclaim when it built its spectacular building cantilevered over Boston Harbor a few years ago, it has brought contemporary art to the city through revolving exhibits since 1936. 

During earlier decades, ICA Boston presented the first US shows for artists such as Georges Braque and Edvard Munch, and exhibited Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Roy Litchenstein pieces early in their careers.

Today, ICA continues to focus on identifying and presenting the most significant, thought-provoking, and sometime controversial and provocative contemporary art from emerging and established artists. 

Top Photo:  ICA Boston, with reflection of Boston Harbor, (c) Boston Discovery Guide

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What You Can Enjoy at ICA Boston

Jeff Koons exhibit at ICA Boston - Photo credit: Rob Zand
Jeff Koons exhibit at ICA Boston - Photo credit: Rob Zand, cc by-sa 2.0

ICA shows typically feature individual leading and emerging artists such as Steve McQueen, Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor, Tara Donovan, Shepard Fairey, and Cindy Sherman, thematic shows, and new commissioned works.

The dramatic space provided by ICA's building on the South Boston Waterfront allows a blurring of boundaries between performance, art, film/video, presentations, and contemporary culture - sometimes with unexpected results. 

For example, when ICA presented graphic artist Shepard Fairey's first solo museum show and he arrived to perform as a guest DJ to kick off the opening, the Boston Police circumvented his appearance by arresting him on two outstanding warrants related to graffiti complaints stemming from when he put up his posters in unauthorized public spaces. 

Was Fairey's arrest staged, or did art collide with real life? 

That question has never been definitively answered - but it is a perfect example of the convergence of art with life that you'll find in many of the presentations here.

ICA's eclectic programming draws crowds with diverse interests such as contemporary dance, music, performance, and films.   Plus they host lots of parties, family days, tours, and even teen programming. 

Check the ICA website for details - you'll usually find plenty of interesting things going on. 

You can also find many ICA events such as new shows and summer concerts listed on our Boston monthly events calendars.

First Fridays

ICA hosts a 21+ First Friday party from 5pm-10pm on the first Friday evening of each month featuring a local musician or DJ, fun activities, food from local restaurants, and specialty cocktails, beer, and wine for purchase. 

During warm months, First Fridays move outdoors to ICA's spacious deck overlooking the Harbor - perfect for dancing under the stars.

First Fridays require tickets (the "price" is the ICA admission cost; discounts and promotions do not apply), and they do sell out, so getting your tickets in advance is recommended.  

The museum is closed to other visitors during the First Friday events.

ICA Boston and patio seating next to Harborwalk
ICA Boston and patio seating next to Harborwalk

More to See & Do near ICA

More to Fun Things to Do in Boston

Where to Stay near Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art

These hotels are not only close to ICA, but also offer other great perks:  Boston Harbor views (the Seaport), spacious suites with 12' ceilings and brick walls in a 1900 post-and-beam building (Residence Inn), and a rather fabulous 4-season roof deck and bar (the Envoy).

Check reviews and make reservations

Find more hotels near ICA and other top South Boston Waterfront attractions

Where to Eat near ICA

ICA's on-site Water Cafe offers casual fare by Wolfgang Puck and patio dining in warm weather, and is a terrific choice. 

However, you'll find plenty of other great choices nearby:

  • Tatte Bakery & Cafe (101 Seaport Blvd) - Freshly baked pastries and light fare
  • Nautilus Pier 4 (300 Pier 4) - Seafood and steaks; raw bar on the weekends, patio seating
  • Wood Hill Pier 4 (300 Pier 4) - New American cuisine featuring local and organic produce

More excellent choices for dining and drinking near ICA:

ICA Boston Essentials

Location:  100 Northern Avenue, South Boston Waterfront; it is also accessible if you walk along Harborwalk, Boston's public access path along the waterfront

Admission, Discounts, Free Admission to ICA Boston:  $20 general admission; free for everyone on Thursdays from 5pm - 9pm; free for families (up to 2 adults accompanied by children 12 and under) on the last Saturday of every month except November and December during ICA's Play Dates event (use promo code PLAYDATE when reserving tickets online). 

ICA Boston is also free for Blue Star Families (active duty military, including National Guard and Reserves) between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  On the first two Sundays of each month, Boston Public School students plus 3 family members can visit for free - use promo code WELCOMEBPS when booking online. 

ICA is closed on Mondays, except for certain national Monday holidays, when it is free for everyone:  Martin Luther King Jr Day, Presidents' Day, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Labor Day, and Indigenous Peoples Day.   

Park:  Nearby parking lots and garages in this area typically offer reasonable rates (around $20-$30) on weekends and after 5 on weekdays, and much pricier rates (one hour or more can run $35-$45) when you enter before 5pm on weekdays.  A few will give a $2 discount for ICA patrons on weekends - never hurts to ask.  Very little curb-side parking is available in this area.  Take the T (Boston's subway) if possible!

Get there by T:  Red Line/South Station - an easy 6-10 minute walk (use the Summer Street Bridge instead of the Congress Street Bridge on windy days; Silver Line/Courthouse stop - walk about 1 block east to the ICA. 

More to See in Boston

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